Making Progress: Offense Scores Early and Often

John Beck was a perfect 6-for-6 during Saturday's scrimmage, recording a team-leading 157 yards passing and three touchdowns. Beck also completed a 70-yard pass to Chris Hale for a TD. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)

PROVO -- Entering Saturday's scrimmage, BYU head coach Gary Crowton said he would run 200 plays if the Cougars were unable to take care of the ball, eliminate penalties, play with a high degree of intensity and execute cleanly. Eighty-seven plays in to the second, full-contact scrimmage of the Spring season, evidentially both sides of the ball got it right.

"I'm pleased with how things went today," Crowton said after the scrimmage. "I think we've made a lot of progress in a week. Earlier in the Spring, the offense looked like some sort of Chinese fire drill. They showed a little more poise out there this morning. Today's scrimmage was a lot cleaner from an offensive standpoint."

Following last week's scrimmage in which the defense forced 14 turnovers and snagged 16 sacks, the offense managed to turn things around on Saturday. Matt Berry led the offense on a 9 play, 70-yard scoring drive to open the scrimmage. Redshirt freshman Taufui Vakapuna started the day with a 14-yard run, and picked up another 16 yards a few plays later. After Berry connected with Rod Wilkerson for 9 yards and Chris Hale for another 19 yards, Marcus Whalen picked up a 7-yard run to give the offense a second-and-goal situation from the 1-yard line. Vakapuna capped the scoring drive with a one-yard run.

"The offense got rolling with some early plays," Crowton said. "I think the they were able to gain some confidence because of that. The defense had such a good scrimmage last week, I think they may have been a little over-confident. The offense had something to prove and wanted to come out and play well."

The offensive dominance continued on the very next play. Freshman quarterback John Beck aired it out down the sideline as Hale ran underneath the perfectly thrown ball. Hale ran untouched in to the endzone for the 70-yard touchdown. With the defense on its heels, Beck was given another opportunity. This time he hooked up with Wilkerson, who made a diving catch for a 45-yard gain along the right sideline. After Reynaldo Brathwaite picked up a 1-yard run, Beck went back to the air. This time, he found Brett Cooper on a 19-yard touchdown strike. Beck went 3-for-3 in back-to-back drives and racked up 134 yards and two touchdowns.

With both first teams back on the field, the defense managed to settle down and come up with back-to-back stops. After linebacker Colby Bockwoldt recorded the defense's first sack, Jon Burbidge was credited with a pass deflection to end the drive. On the next series, Cougar back Aaron Francisco came up with another pass deflection that eventually led to a third-and-long for the offense. Tight coverage and a heavy rush forced Berry to thrown an incomplete pass as the defense held yet again.

With momentum turning back to the defense, it was time for the second-team unit to give it a whirl. After three plays, defending a third-and-1, junior Nathan Kolbaba busted through the line to pick up his first of two sacks on the day. After starting a new series, Kolbaba picked up his second sack in just three plays to force the offense in to a second-and-17 from their own 45-yardline. Pendleton fired back with three straight completions to give the offense a fourth-and-three from the defense's own 48-yardline. Pendleton pitched out to Thomas Stancil who picked up 6 yards and a first down. Following a pair of defensive penalties, including a 15-yard personal foul, Stancil picked up 5 more yards. After a two incomplete passes an a run for no gain, defensive back Chad Barney batted down a Pendleton pass in the endzone to end the drive.

Quarterback Jackson Brown also got a shot to run the offense. His first outing was successful. He led the offense on a 6-play, 70-yard scoring drive, highlighted by Eric Watterson's 31-yard run. In his only appearance of the day, Jackson hooked up with Cody Fonnesbeck for a 10-yard gain. Another defensive personal foul for a late hit gave the offense a first-and-goal from the 5-yardline. Rick Swenson capped the drive with a five-yard touchdown.

"We had a couple late hits because we were trying to hustle to the ball," Crowton said. " I like the hustle and the intensity, but we have to be smart about it. Coach Mendenhall is going to address that."

With another successful scoring drive, it was Todd Mortensen's turn to take control of the offensive unit. His results would be no different. Mortensen's first outing resulted in a 7-play, 60-yard scoring drive, capped by a 12-yard pass to Toby Christensen.

Beck then got a final crack at the action. Four plays in to the drive, the offense was back in the endzone. Beck went 3-for-3 during the drive, capped by a 10-yard pass to receiver Matt Smith.

Beck, a native of Mesa, Ariz., finished the scrimmage with 157 yards passing on 6-of-6 attempts, and had a team-leading three touchdown completions.

Defensive end Bill Wright came up with a pair of sacks to end back-to-back drives for the offense. Jared Meibos was also credited with a drive-ending sack. On the next series, with the offense working on the two-minute drill, Poppinga got back in to the act with back-to-back sacks, forcing the offense to go three-and-out.

On the next-to-the-last drive of the day, linebacker Levi Madarieta was credited with the only interception of the morning, diving to pick off a Berry attempt.

All totaled, the offense completed 37-of-53 (.700) attempts for 438 yards and four touchdowns. The running game also contributed over 125 yards and two touchdowns. Berry ended the day with 122 yards on 13-of-23 attempts. Whalen ended the day as the team's leading rusher, totaling 33 yards on just four carries.

"I can see the progress," Crowton said. "We have a long ways to go, but we're heading in the right direction. We have spent a lot of time working with the offensive line in terms of working together. We have two freshmen; one just off a mission and one who red-shirted last season. We have another lineman who was a defensive end a year ago. We're patching together a relatively young group, including our second-team guys. Today was there best day because they are working together."

Hale was the leading receiver, recording 4 receptions for 107 yards and a touchdown.

"Chris is a good player," Crowton added. "Ryan Slater is also doing well, and Toby Christensen is doing some good things. We don't have that flashy, outstanding receiver, but we have more speed, and more disciplined, solid players at receiver."

Despite its sluggish start, and a few personal fouls along the way, the defense didn't have a bad day either. The defensive unit was credited with a total of 9 sacks and an interception. Poppinga led the team with 3 sacks, followed by Kolbaba and Wright, who each had 2.

"The offensive made a lot of progress in the past week," Crowton said. "It's going to put some pressure back on the defense to be more technically sound and more physical. We're making progress. It's one of those things; one day the offense looks good, the next day the defense looks good. Hopefully we're getting better on both sides of the ball."

The Cougars will conclude the 2003 Spring schedule by participating in the annual Blue-White Scrimmage next Saturday, beginning at Noon (MT). Prior to the scrimmage, children (between ages 6 and 14) will have the opportunity to learn basic skills and fundamentals from members of this year's team. The clinic, which will be held at the Stadium, will begin at 11 a.m. and will conclude around 11:45 a.m.

Fans may purchase advance tickets for the event that also includes a tasty lunch. In order to take advantage of this special offer, fans must purchase their scrimmage tickets by contacting the Marriott Center ticket office at 378-BYU1 or 1-800-322-BYU1 by Thursday, March 20. Advance tickets, which include a hot dog, chips and soda are $5 for adults and $3 for youth.

General admission for the scrimmage will be $3 for adults and $2 for children (18 and under.) Students holding BYU All-Sport cards, and children (6 and under) will be admitted free of charge. The children's clinic is free with a paid admission to the scrimmage.

"Everyone will be out there fighting for team identity, toughness, and for a position on this team," Crowton said about next week's scrimmage. "That's what Spring ball is all about."

SCRIMMAGE STATS (Unofficial)

QUARTERBACK STATS

Player Att Comp Yds TD Int Sacks

Beck 6 6 157 3 0 0

Berry 13 23 122 0 1 6

Pendleton 10 14 95 0 0 2

Mortensen 7 8 54 1 0 1

Jackson 1 2 10 0 0 0

RUSHING STATS

Player Att Yds TD Yds/Carry Long

Whalen 4 33 0 8.3 21

Watterson 1 31 0 31.0 31

Swenson 2 16 1 8.0 11

Tahi 3 14 0 4.7 13

Stancil 3 11 0 3.7 6

Vakapuna 3 2 1 0.7 1

Brathwaite 3 1 0 0.3 1

RECEIVING STATS

Player Rec. Yds. TD Long

Hale 4 107 1 70

Cooper 5 56 1 19

Wilkerson 2 54 0 45

M. Smith 5 38 1 11

T. Christensen 4 30 1 12

Vakapuna 2 30 0 16

Coates 3 29 0 11

Jory 3 19 0 9

Hadfield 1 19 0 19

Slater 1 10 0 10

Fonnesbeck 1 10 0 10

Whalen 1 9 0 9

Jones 1 9 0 9

Tahi 2 7 0 6

Hansen 1 7 0 7

Aiono 1 4 0 4

DEFENSIVE STATS

Player Sacks Int

Poppinga 3 0

Wright 2 0

Kolbaba 2 0

Bockwoldt 1 0

Meibos 1 0

Madarieta 0 1